Dead to the Law
Romans 7:1 Or do you not know, brethren (for I speak to those who know the law), that the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives? 2 For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband. 3 So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man. 4 Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another--to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God. 5 For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death. 6 But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter. 7 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, "You shall not covet." 8 But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead. 9 I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died. 10 And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death. 11 For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me. 12 Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good. 13 Has then what is good become death to me? Certainly not! But sin, that it might appear sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful. (NKJV)







Paul wrote this letter from Corinth, Greece during a three month visit to the church there in late 56 and early 57 A.D. The letter is heavy with Christian Doctrine, Christian teaching.

The teaching for chapters six through eight is sanctification. Sanctification can be defined as the process of being made holy.

In chapter six, Paul taught sanctification as being positional, meaning our standing with God, and as being practical, meaning how we work out this standing in our lives.

Referring to positional sanctification Paul wrote: “For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God.” (Romans 6:10). On the cross, Christ finished the work of sin. Sin died and Christ was risen to “live to God” a new life as the Resurrected Christ.

Next, he wrote “Just as Christ died to sin, likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin (Romans 6:11a). Positionally, Christ’s death on the cross put sin to death and we Christians died to sin with Him. Practically, Paul commands us to “be dead indeed to sin”.

Christ has declared us dead to sin. Positional sanctification says that we are dead to sin, we are unable to sin. When we become a Christian, we become a new creation, dead to sin and alive to righteousness, “alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (v. 11b).

Positional sanctification is what God says about us. Practical sanctification is how we work that out in our daily living.

Now, in this passage, Paul begins by giving us an illustration to further explain positional sanctification. He uses an illustration from marriage.

He writes “Or do you not know, brethren (for I speak to those who know the law), that the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives? For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives.” (vv. 1-2a). In other words, the Mosaic Law as detailed in the Old Testament, has dominion over us prior to becoming a Christian. We are living under the representation of man, Adam.

“But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband.” (v. 2b). When we become a Christian and die to the law, we are released from the law. We are no longer under the representation of Adam.

“So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man.” (v. 3). When we become a Christian, we are free of the law, and sin, and are represented by “another man”, the second Adam, Christ.

“Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ” (v. 4a). We are dead to the law because our “old man”, our old self, has died with Christ on the cross.

“That you may be married to another--to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God.” (v. 4b). That we may be represented by another, Christ, and, like Christ, we have been raised to “bear fruit to God”.

For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death.” (v. 5). Prior to becoming a Christian, the law would inform us of sin and inflame our passion to eat of the forbidden fruit, to sin, just as Adam and Eve in the garden.

Adam and Eve were never tempted to sin until they were introduced to sin. The law introduces us to sin.

“But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter.” (v. 6). Now, as Christians, “we have been delivered from the law”.

We have died to the law and we live for Christ. We now serve the Lord through the new Holy Spirit who has come to live within us and we don’t live under bondage to the old “letter” of the law. As Christians, we are now living under grace and not law.

After concluding the exposition of his illustration, Paul then turns to explaining his comments on the law. The Old Testament law is the word of God and Paul wants to make sure that it is still honored as such.

“What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not!” (v. 7a). The law is not “sin”. It is not bad.

“On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, ‘You shall not covet.’ " (v. 7b).

The law informs us of sin. It defines sin. It is essential to helping us to understand sin. It does not give us the remedy for sin but it does let us know to seek that remedy.

“Sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire.” (v. 8a). The knowledge of sin inflames within us the desire to do that which is forbidden.

“For apart from the law sin was dead.” (v. 8b). Before we were given the Mosaic law, we did not know what sin was.

 “I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died.” (v. 9). Mankind existed before the law, but when God gave Moses the law on Mount Sinai, He also informed us of sin.

We “died”, were sentenced to death, because we could not possibly obey all the law and therefore would be under the sentence of spiritual death, eternal separation from God.

“And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death.” (v. 10). The law, which was to show us the path to righteous living for God, actually brought spiritual death because we were unable to obey it.

“For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me.” (v.11). This disobedience, called “sin”, “deceived” mankind. In effect, the law “killed” mankind instead of lifting up mankind.

“Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good.” (v. 12). “Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good” because it points out sin.

“Has then what is good become death to me? Certainly not!” (v. 13a). The law is good because it has not sentenced mankind to spiritual death.

“But sin, that it might appear sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful.” (v. 13b). Instead, the law revealed sin and enhanced sin, which leads to spiritual death, so that mankind would know to seek the remedy. The remedy is Jesus Christ.

 

Art Toombs Ministries

Online Bible Commentary